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At Willingdon Community School we really value our alumni relations which is open to all former students and staff. We really want to hear about our former students and their success stories as we feel that sharing these stories can be an inspiration to our current student body. If you are interested in becoming part of our alumni please contact or click Alumni Google Form

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Ben Shoesmith

Student 2014-2019

I left school and started college at East Sussex College – Lewes. I was studying Business Studies, Economics and Psychology A-levels. Quickly after starting, I realised university was the assumption for everyone as a Post 18 option, and I felt the pressure to go to university from the college, especially as I performed well academically. I found out apprenticeships offered everything I was looking for. I found that not only was I able to continue my learning after college without going on to university, but also without accumulating the huge amount of debt. I could also start to earn money, setting myself up for the future. I knew apprenticeships were a great alternative to university, but I knew little else. The careers team directed me where to look and explained the ‘levels’ system. I left college with an A in Business studies and Psychology and a B in Economics.

The summer after I left college was focused on applications and interviews. I applied for multiple apprenticeships, from smaller firms to widely recognised companies, like Virgin Media O2. At Virgin I had a situational test, a telephone interview and an assessment centre, which was a day consisting of group activities, problem solving and a final interview with the hiring manager. By no means is an apprenticeship the easy alternative to university, which I found out for myself. I was offered my apprenticeship at Virgin Media O2 in July and started in September 2021.

I began as a Design Apprentice in the Regional Network Design team. My job was to plan, design and cost expansion of Virgin Media O2 services to new areas. 20% of my job time was working towards the Associate Project Management Level 4 qualification. Having passed my apprenticeship in February 2023, I was promoted to an Associate Designer in the same team and have recently been promoted once again to a Network Designer.

When I reflect on being an apprentice, there are so many highlights and opportunities I look back on. I was on the Future Careers Committee as the thrive and wellbeing rep, through this I raised over £3100 for charity (£2500+ for Movember and £600+ for Comic Relief). I hosted many events including the Summer event 2022 for apprentices before they started at the company and the Future Careers Class of 2023 Induction for new starters. I have led the company on National Apprenticeship Week, hosting internal events for apprentices. I have also been involved in external work, being the face of the company’s social media takeover across all platforms. I have done PR in The Times paper twice, speaking about my experience going from A-levels to an apprenticeship. I have represented apprenticeships and Virgin Media O2 at careers fairs and outreach sessions (like the WCS assemblies) with my former school, college and Eton college. I was a guest on the PMs business connects event, asking him a question of personal interest about apprenticeships. I won the Virgin Media O2 Apprentice of the Year 2023 Awards at the Future Careers graduation, out of 300 apprentices.

Eloise Barnes

Student 2012-2017

I enjoyed my time at Willingdon and liked most subjects. I was quite quiet at school but still got involved in extra-curricular activities such as the choir and the Southern Schools Book Award. I was also a prefect in Year 11 as I always wanted to give back to the school.

I studied my A Levels at East Sussex College Eastbourne in Business, Law and Geography with an EPQ. I found these subjects challenging but managed to achieve ABB with an A in EPQ which allowed me to secure a place at the University of Reading. Alongside my A levels, I worked part-time at the Harvester in Polegate, which helped me to develop my communication skills.

I studied BA Business Management with a placement year and loved my 4 years at university - they were genuinely some of the best years of my life so far. I found my course really exciting and broad so I could learn about lots of different things like finance, leadership and operations. I met some amazing people who are some of my closest friends now and lived in a house with them for my second and third year, which was a lot of fun and great to have that experience of looking after myself.

I also got involved in societies like being the Treasurer of the Arts and Crafts society in my second year and the President in my fourth year. This was great to relax during the busyness of university life while also taking on a leadership role! I was also the Secretary of the Business Society in my second year.

My degree contained a placement year which was a year of work experience. I did this at Kimberly-Clark whose brands include Kleenex, Andrex and Huggies. It was an amazing experience to join an international company where I got to meet so many people virtually, but it was strange at the same time as in 2021-22, the company was mainly working from home and I only went into the office 5 times all year! My role was in import-export and procurement where I implemented a control tower to oversee containers coming into the UK. I was given a lot of real responsibility which was a little scary at first but mostly empowering.

In 2023, I graduated with a First Class degree and started back at Kimberly-Clark in September on their graduate scheme where I will have 3 roles over 2 years. I am currently a production planner for a range of products including Kleenex Balsam clip strips. In my first 3 months, I have been on some exciting projects including getting involved in our Social Mission Day in Northfleet where we packed 5000 hygiene packages for InKind Direct going to people in need.

Dr Benjamin Preston - a former Willingdon student

Hi my, name is Ben and I’m a doctor currently working at Southampton General Hospital. I left Willingdon back in 2015. During my time at Willingdon, I was fortunate enough to get 9 A’s, and an A in my GCSEs. I then went to Bexhill sixth form college to study Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Further Maths at A-Level. I had initially chosen to study Physics but after a couple of weeks, decided that I didn’t enjoy the subject and so switched to Further Maths. I dropped further maths after getting an A in it at AS level. I then achieved AA*A at college in my A-levels.

Initially I had actually wanted to study chemical engineering at University and had even drafted my personal statement for this. However, during my time at Willingdon, I applied to be part of the Brighton Medical School outreach programme named BrightMed which provided opportunities to get involved in Medicine whilst still at school. I continued this programme whilst at college and during a residential trip with BrightMed, I realised that I actually wanted to do Medicine and not Chemical Engineering.

To apply for medicine, as well as good grades, you also have to provide evidence that you understand what a career in medicine involves. This is usually in the form of work experience which I ended up doing at St Wilfred’s Hospice. This was a very rewarding experience and really helped to prepare me for what life is like as a doctor.

I applied to study Medicine at Imperial College London, Leicester, Brighton and Sussex, and Cardiff. Admissions for Medicine are a little different to other subjects as they involve entrance examinations and interviews. However, I was lucky enough to be offered places to study at Imperial, Brighton & Sussex and Leicester.

I went on to study Medicine at Imperial College in central London. Medical school is very challenging and requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. However, it was one of the best times of my life! At Imperial, the course is 6 years long as you take a year out of medicine to study another degree. I decided to do an additional degree in Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Bowels and Liver!) and gained a First-Class BSc degree in this. I then continued my medical training and obtained my Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery with distinctions in clinical science and practice. I was also fortunate enough to be awarded the British Pharmacological Society Prize and Glazer Prize for best overall surgical performance.


After medical school, I applied for a specialist foundation programme at Southampton General Hospital. This is very similar to the normal post-medical school doctor training but it has a component of research which I am currently doing in medical education. I have been very fortunate to publish a couple of papers in scientific journals in orthopaedics and Gastroenterology which is why I’ve gone on to continue this.

I am currently working as a respiratory (Lungs) doctor at Southampton General Hospital in my FY1 year. I have just finished working in trauma & orthopaedics which was very intense.

Being a doctor is an incredible and very rewarding experience. For anyone that is interested in becoming a doctor, as long as you’re willing to work hard and are motivated, anyone can do it. 

Erin McKee

Up until Parents’ Evening in Year 9 I was uncertain about my future career path. It all changed that evening when Mr. Ellwood inspired me to pursue a career at the Bar through his advice and belief in my ability. From this moment, I dedicated my time at Willingdon to achieving the best I could: becoming Head Girl and gaining 6A* and 4A’s at GCSE.

After leaving Willingdon in 2016, I went on to study History, English Literature and Biology at A-Level at East Sussex College Lewes, achieving A*AA. This gained me an Academic Scholarship to study at the University of Kent, undertaking my undergraduate degree in Law.

Throughout my time at university, I threw myself into a variety of volunteering and extracurricular activities, such as mooting and mock trial advocacy. My involvement with the Kent Law Clinic, a pro bono legal service run on the University of Kent’s campus, gave me the most exposure to the reality of legal practice through a hands-on preparation of cases and frequent court visits.

The pandemic proved an unprecedented time for both my undergraduate degree and for gaining formal legal experience. Despite the challenge, I graduated from the University of Kent with a First Class degree in Law. I also spent the summer of 2021 undertaking a variety of legal work experiences both virtually and in person.

Gaining Scholarship

My experience at school through to university was relevant to my being awarded the Jules Thorn Scholarship (Major Scholarship) from The Honourable Society of Middle Temple, worth £12,750. This award helped me to fund the Bar Practice Course (BPC) at The University of Law in London from 2021-2022.

Middle Temple is one of four Inns of Court. The Inns of Court are the historic societies that educate and train barristers in England and Wales. At Middle Temple, scholarships are awarded on merit, taking a holistic approach to each candidate.

The application process for a scholarship involved a written application and interview. I submitted my application in November 2020 and was invited to interview in March 2021. I was interviewed by a panel of three at Middle Temple, including a QC, a Professor in Law, and a leading criminal barrister. The interview was rigorous, testing me on my chosen areas of law and my casework with the Kent Law Clinic.

I was also awarded an Advocacy Scholarship from The University of Law worth £2,000. This was based upon my previous advocacy experience and an interview involving an advocacy task.

What Next

I completed my Bar exams in May 2022 and am due to be called to the Bar in July of this year.

Whilst completing the Bar, I applied for pupillage, which is the final stage of training to be a barrister. I want to pursue a career in criminal law and so applied to criminal chambers in London and the South East. After many interviews testing my ability as an advocate, I was delighted to be offered a criminal pupillage with Foundry Chambers in London. Foundry Chambers, who specialise in criminal law, were my favourite chambers that I applied to and I am excited to start with them in October 2023!

With my pupillage not starting for another year, I plan to spend the next year working in London and taking long holidays when I can!


Advice I would give to those at school is try your best. Had it not have been from the support I received from Mr Ellwood I would not be where I am today. Make sure you listen to your teachers as it is their advice which can lead you not only to your next steps, but your future career.

For those who have an interest in law, I would highly recommend visiting Lewes Crown Court to see Crown Court trials in action. This was what convinced me that being a barrister was the career for me.

Les Naylor

Staff Member

I went to Willingdon school MANY years ago when the school was much smaller, and only the boys had to wear school ties and blazers!!! I loved school, and had the best time here, in particular my PE lessons.

After school I went to Eastbourne 6th form college – which is now East Sussex College (Eastbourne Campus). I studied French, Geography and Biology A level, plus GCSE PE ( as this did not exist in schools at this time!) I found A levels very difficult and a massive jump from GCSE’s. However I managed to scrape through them and through the clearing process secured a place at the University of Greenwich where I trained to become a PE teacher. I LOVED university , it was so much fun and totally different from college. I loved living away from home, and being way more independent.

After Uni , I took a year out and travelled around Australia. I highly recommend travelling – it was  one of the best experiences of my life, and led me to travel more at later stages in my life. I also started applying for jobs during this year, and was lucky to get a job at Willingdon….. where I have been 2nd in dept for PE, Head of Year and Assistant Headteacher.

Willingdon is such a great school, and been the foundation for many of my memories and experiences!! The kids are fab, and one of the reason why I have stayed for so long!!

Lewis Buckle

Student 2013-2018
Staff 2020-2021

After five awesome years growing up at Willingdon, I had the privilege to go to Eastbourne college on a scholarship. Whilst going to college here was only two years, my experience was unforgettable!

I was keen to make the most of my short time at college, and with that mantra, I was fortunate enough to do many things. My experiences ranged from traveling the country competing in international debate competitions, ball-boying for tennis players like Andy Murray, becoming a senior prefect, starting a business from scratch and pitching to business reps from the likes of Disney and HSBC, to even flying a plane at an Air force base as an RAF corporal.

My time at college though was sometimes testing, especially at the start where I really struggled to make the transition.  But I was humbled to meet so many new people from around the world who helped me settle, many of who I am still in contact today, and I finished my time at Eastbourne with an A level in English, Maths and History.

As someone who has a broad scope of interests, I never had one career goal in mind. This was frustrating at times, but also exciting! It was because of this I realised I did not want to go to university, and instead I wanted start making a difference in the world of work straight away. After COVID cut my college experience short, I spent the next 8 months trying to gain life experience away from the extracurricular and academics of school. This led me to volunteering, learning languages (I forgot these very quickly!), and working in new environments like building sites and hotels. I was honoured at the end of this to return to where it all started… at Willingdon School as a teaching assistant.

My time at Willingdon on the other side has been an invaluable insight to helping others, and it especially helped knowing my way around the building already.  This year I have learnt so much on the diversity of life and have worked with some remarkable young minds. There will always be some old schoolteachers though I can never bring myself to call by their first names, whether I am staff or not!

My time as an LSP and Receptionist had given me a firm foundation for when I start my next career chapter as a Police officer, where I will be an Apprentice officer studying to a Policing degree.

My time at Willingdon and the people I met there have been so significant to who I am and where I will go in my future! To them I thank you, and I hope to be back one day soon – maybe giving talks in my new police uniform!

Sergeant Brook Stebbings

 Student 1999-2004

Throughout my childhood, my parents would take me to Eastbourne Air Show every summer. I loved watching the air displays from the beach and one that really resonated with me was the RAF Falcons Parachute Display team.

I was fascinated and thought maybe I could be a Falcon one day. From collecting their autographs then, I now find myself signing them.

I attended Willingdon Primary and then Willingdon Community School, leaving in 2004 with 5 GCSEs. I then went on to Park College to do a BTEC in Sport and Exercise Science. I played a variety of sports both individual and team which was an important requisite for joining the RAF as a PTI (Physical Training Instructor) at the age of 22.

To join the RAF as a PTI you need at least 2 GCSEs including Maths and English and show ability in several sports and if you are county level or higher in any sport that will also stand you in good stead. You need to be fit, a team player and keen to join the services.

After Basic Training you then go on to trade training (PTI) which is 6 months long before being posted to training unit or a station gym where you plan and run exercise classes, sports events, expeditions alongside your service job as a Corporal.

After some time in these roles, you can specialise as a Parachute Jump Instructor (PJI), a Exercise Remedial Instructor (ERI) or a Force Development Instructor (FDI).

As a PJI I teach troops across all three services including the preparation and techniques from exiting the aircraft to landing from a variety of various situations. Our training takes place in the UK but also in Cyprus and California where there is more guarantee of good weather to jump!

After promotion to Sergeant, I was selected to be an RAF Falcon in 2018 for a 3 year post and display all over the UK and Europe at Airshows and big events – the most recent being Eastbourne Armed Forces Day and Silverstone F1 Grand Prix.

My current typical day when preparing for a public display involves attending briefings about weather conditions, the jump profile, walk through talk through and preparing kit for the jump.

Behind the scenes when we are not jumping we are organising displays or involved in military parachuting within the Airborne Delivery Wing. If you feel inspired by my story, please come along to one of our displays and say hello! Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Maisie Maynard-Grice

Student 2011-2016
Staff 2020-2021

I left Willingdon Community School in 2016. 5 years on I have returned to the school to work as an LSP. Not only did I love attending the school, but it also gave me the best foundations to go and achieve my goals.

Since leaving Willingdon I was awarded an Academic and Equestrian Scholarship to allow me to attend Moira House Girls School where I did my A levels. Here I studied biology, P.E. and philosophy whilst still being able to focus on my horse riding. Attending Moira House, provided me with the most amazing opportunities, academically and socially. I was able to compete in sports like lacrosse, hockey, show jumping and swimming. Upon leaving Moira House I was awarded the Philosophy award.

After completing my A levels, I was then able to go onto to study a Degree through the Open University in Education. I chose the Open University as it allowed me to carry on working and gaining experience whilst living at home so I could continue my commitment to my horses.

Working at Willingdon as an LSP has allowed me to experience working within a school with amazing children. I am based working in Year 10 and 11 with my focus being maths. Furthermore, I was given the opportunity of teaching some Unqualified Teaching hours. I have been teaching maths now, within these lessons to Year 10 and 11’s, for around 18 months. It is a pleasure working at Willingdon and I hope I can progress onto a career within the education system alongside my passion for horse riding with my horse Blue.

Jasmine Walsh

Student 2010-2015
Staff 2020-2021

I attended Willingdon from 2010-2015, and became the Head Girl in my final year. At school I really enjoyed science, PE and art, and was keen to always involve myself in extracurricular activities from Young Enterprise to sports competitions such as town sports.

My love of science at school led me to apply for the Bright Med program, which is a medical outreach program running at the University of Sussex from Year 9-13. This was an amazing experience that gave me a unique insight into what life as a medical student and doctor could be like. In the early years we spent time learning things such as how to take a patient history, whereas, in the later years we got to conduct our own research projects and stay at the university for a residential weekend, in which we were lucky enough to work with cadavers.

After Willingdon, I managed to gain an academic scholarship to study Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Economics at Eastbourne College. Following this, I applied to study Biomedical Science at Cardiff University. Alongside my studies, I volunteered with several charities that I care passionately for, including St Johns ambulance, STAR, which provides a safe space and conversational English classes for refugees, and SKIP, which is a sustainable international children’s charity working to promote sex education and HIV prevention.

Since graduating from Cardiff this year with a first-class degree, I have decided to take a gap year. This year has also given me the time to be part of groups that I am passionate about, such as being a research assistant for the COVID-19 taskforce on domestic violence, and co-founding the diversity and racial equality group, Challenge Racism. A gap year also gave me the time to take up new hobbies, such as aerial hoop and painting!

Amy Critchfield

Student 2014-2019
Staff 2021-2022

After leaving Willingdon in 2019, I went on to study English Language, Psychology and triple Sport BTEC at Gildredge house. I was able to continue with all the subjects I loved thanks to my GCSE results. I achieved an A in English language, A in psychology and triple D* in sport in my exams in the summer.

This meant I was lucky enough to be accepted at my first choice University. Next year I will be off to Loughborough University to study Sports Science and English. The requirements to get onto this course were AAB at A level (this had to include either English language or literature) or DDM for BTEC courses. I also needed to have passed English and maths at GCSE. I chose this course as it is a combination of my two favourite subjects. The course looks at all my favourite areas of the two subjects and there are many opportunities to have a choice in which modules you study. This means I will be able to pick the aspects of each course that interests me the most. I also chose to go to Loughborough as they have incredible sports facilities and are one of the top ten universities in the UK. Before going to University I decided to come back to the school and was lucky enough to get the job as a learning mentor. I chose to come back as teaching is a job I may potentially be interested in and this is brilliant work experience to help me decide if it is something I want to do. Working as a learning mentor has already taught me so much and all the skills I have acquired will be transferable to any other jobs I get in the future.

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